How Wizards can sign 2020 free agents despite cap situation


The 2020 NBA Draft has come and gone, which now means teams will have to pivot quickly to the start of free agency on Friday at 6 p.m. ET. 

Since training camp is set to begin on December 1 and the regular season tips off on December 22, there's a good chance free agency moves quickly. And even though the Wizards aren't presumed to be big players in the free-agent market, they still have a few devices to add to their roster. 

So here's a breakdown of their salary cap situation and what they can use to sign free agents for the upcoming season. 

Salary cap space

The NBA recently agreed to the 2020-21 salary cap number and luxury tax threshold, and it's very similar to the number from last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The salary cap is $109.1 million with the luxury tax set at $132.6 million.

The Wizards will have $103 million in guaranteed contracts next year and the added $3.7 million in Deni Avdija's rookie deal. That puts them right up against the cap without considering Davis Bertans' potential return on a big-money contract. The Wizards can use bird rights to re-sign Bertans without using cap space, though once the deal is completed it will count against the team's number.

It's unlikely the Wizards will have cap space to sign free agents, but they do have a pair of exceptions that will help them make a playoff push next year. 


Mid-level exception

If the Wizards stay below the $132.6 million luxury tax threshold -- which appears likely -- they'll have access to the full $9.3 million mid-level exception (MLE).

The MLE is for teams over the cap and gives them the ability to sign a player for up to four years. If the Wizards go over the luxury tax, they'll be able to use the tax-payer MLE ($5.7 million). 

In this case, the Wizards can either use the full MLE to sign one player, or break up the $9.3 million a few different ways among multiple players. For example, the Wizards used $5 million of their MLE last summer to sign Ish Smith.

It's also important to note the Wizards aren't required to use all of the MLE. 

Bi-annual exception

Washington will also have access to the bi-annual exception (BAE) in free agency. Teams are only permitted to use it once every two years, and this year it's worth $3.6 million. 

The BAE is another tool over-the-cap teams use to add players to their roster without having to offer veteran minimums exclusively. Similar to the MLE, teams can break up the BAE or use just a portion of it to sign players.

Past examples of the BAE include Brook Lopez signing with the Bucks and Elfrid Payton signing with the Suns in 2018. 

However, using the bi-annual exception triggers the hard cap for that season, so if the Wizards can't find a player worth more than a veteran minimum but less than the MLE, it might be best to let this cap device go unused. 

There's always the possibility of trades to improve a roster in the offseason, but if the Wizards decide not to go that route, this is what they'll have to work with to give John Wall and Bradley Beal the best chance at as deep a playoff run as possible.